Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is probably the most famous painting in history. Songs have been written about her. She’s often been copied by other artists. Suitors have left her flowers, poems, love notes. She has been kidnapped and returned. Twentieth century artists have taken liberties with her and she has traveled to the U.S. and Japan for visits. Her life has been the focus of novels. But biographies have been difficult. Very few facts have survived the centuries. She was born to Antonmarie Gherardini and Lucrezia in 1470, married in 1495 to Francesco del Giocondo, had six children and died in 1542. That’s it.
And so, this book is mostly about the author’s time in Florence tracking down bits of Lisa’s life. There is a lot of background and history, giving the reader knowledge of what a woman like Lisa might have done, and giving the reader a feel for how she might have lived. I enjoyed going along with the author and watching her dig out tiny nuggets of information. When she describes dancing in excitement at seeing the baptismal record of the child of Antonmarie Gherardini, I could share the moment. This is a very well researched book. Her familiarity with Florence and its language allowed her to interview family descendants and view primary sources. But more than that, this book is filled with the excitement Dianne Hales felt while doing all of that research.
There is a nice timeline at the end of the book that helps place Lisa in the affairs of the world around her and a list of the relevant people. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.
eGalley review Publication date 8.5.14
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